A victory in a major 3-year-old stakes race has eluded both Chief's Crown and Stephan's Odyssey. One of them finally should make amends in Saturday's Travers Stakes at Saratoga.
Chief's Crown, the champion of his 2-year-old class, was favored in all of the Triple Crown races and finished in the money in each of them, but never won. Stephan's Odyssey was a fast-finishing second in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes.
They are the dominant horses in the 116th Travers -- which traditionally includes most of the country's best 3-year-olds -- because none of the winners of the Triple Crown races is in the lineup.
Kentucky Derby winner Spend a Buck is running at Monmouth Park, where he can be treated with the drug Lasix (which is illegal in New York). Belmont winner Creme Fraiche is passing because trainer Woody Stephens trains him and thinks he can win it with Stephan's Odyssey.
Both favorites seem to be coming into the Travers in peak condition. Trainer Roger Laurin gave Chief's Crown a breather after the Belmont, and brought him back to competition here in a grass race, which he won authoritatively -- only to be disqualified.
Chief's Crown would seem to have plenty of edges in the Travers. He is one of the few horses in the field with speed, and the Saratoga racing strip favors front-runners or horses who can lay close to the pace. But questions persist about his effectiveness at 1 1/4 miles, although Laurin insists, "The distance suits him perfectly."
Stephan's Odyssey comes into the Travers with victories in the Dwyer and Jim Dandy stakes that don't look particularly impressive on paper. In both races, he beat weak horses in slow time. But in both stakes he was racing over extremely speed-favoring tracks and ran down a front runner. He has an excellent shot to give Stephens, who is zero for 12 in the Travers, his first victory here.
The only other entrants in the seven-horse lineup who can be considered legitimate contenders are Maryland-based colts Don's Choice and Skip Trial.